On Oct. 7, the Washington Post released a video of Donald Trump talking to Billy Bush, then the host of Access Hollywood, about grabbing women by their genitals and kissing them without their consent. He could do this, he claimed, because he held the status of a celebrity.
“And when you’re a star, they let you do it. They let you do anything,” we hear Trump brag to Bush in the 2005 recording.
We’re going to go ahead and assume you’ve heard the rest of the tape by now, and you know Trump’s language only got more vulgar and concerning.
But let’s make one thing clear — the issue in this situation isn’t language. It isn’t the fact that a presidential candidate said the word “p—y” in the context of female genitalia while wearing a microphone and being taped, although that in and of itself is cause for alarm. The problem is that Trump proudly admitted that he used his wealth and notoriety as a tool to sexually assault women.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, sexual assault is “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient” — a definition Trump’s words match up with perfectly.
At the second presidential debate Oct. 9, Trump was asked to defend his lewd remarks. Rather than owning up to his actions, he wrote off his words as “locker room talk.”
“Locker room talk.”
For a second, let’s put aside the identity of the speaker. A man claimed to be able to grab women by their private parts because he had some intangible, special status, and then wrote it off as a lighthearted remark that might be thrown around between amicable teammates changing out of their uniforms. At best, this is a ludicrous excuse. At worst, it’s abhorrent.
Now, recall that this is a candidate for the highest office in the United States.
Trump says plenty of ridiculous things, and usually there’s no harm in laughing. In this instance, though, it isn’t a joke. A man of wealth, power and influence is sending the message that it’s okay to brag about assaulting women. Though it is assuring to believe that no one takes his remarks seriously, there are people who will. And the message those people will hear is that if assault is okay to joke about, it’s okay to partake in.
College students make many jokes around campus, but sexual assault should never be the punchline. “Locker room talk” is nothing more than the objectification of women, and this objectification is blatantly disrespectful. Words are more powerful than actions when they shape the social culture we live in. Use yours to start a conversation.